Misadventures with wine, weights, and running shoes.

Why Cross Train

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Google “Cross training for runners” and you get 2.8 million hits. The question is where do you go to find what is the right answer? The right answer is as varied as the web hits. The key is finding what works for you.

Wikipedia defines cross training as:
“an athlete training in sports other than the one that the athlete competes in, with a goal of improving overall performance. It takes advantage of the particular effectiveness of each training method, while at the same time attempting to negate the shortcomings of that method by combining it with other methods that address its weaknesses.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cross-training)
Why do WE cross train? Cross training for running will help us achieve our main goal: improve our overall running performance and/or prevent injury. Our secondary goal is to be fit strong overall athletes. For us, this is the difference between “working out” and “training”. Neither are wrong, one is just more goal focused.

Strengthening our muscles and keeping them limber can help prevent “leaks” in energy, minimizes poor mechanics, reduces the over use of accessory muscles – something that can lead to potentially tweaking something on the run when fatigue sets in. I see a lot of runners complain of said “tweaks”

Our Cross Training Recipe is based on simplicity and includes: weight training, non-impact cardio, and flexibility.

For weight training, we incorporate Squat, Hinge, Push, Pull, and Core movements in every session.

Lower body work

We focus primarily on the main lower body muscles. These are: Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Hip Flexors, Hip Extensors and Glutes. Calves and soleus muscles are utilized in these exercises, but we do not work them in isolation. Both single and double leg work is important as it adds variety and targets specific movement patterns. When running, only one leg is on the ground at a time, so being strong and stable on one leg is very helpful.
Squats: the “pushing” motion of this exercise strengthens our quadriceps and hip flexor muscles used to move our legs forward, stabilizes our knees, and helps absorb the impact of the foot strike during running.

Hinge: Deadlifts and, our Favorite, Barbell Hip Thrusts are used to strengthen glutes, hamstrings and hip extensors (the engine for running that propels us forward.) The stronger and more powerful we can extend our hip behind us the faster we will travel.

Upper Body Work
Strong backs, shoulders and chest will keep our torso upright longer as well has help us maintain a strong posture. This maximizes lung expansion, helping to provide oxygen to the working muscles. We do these by using push and pull exercises with weights. Many times this involves the total body as in weighted push-ups, plank rows, pull ups , and TRX Rows.

We like exercises that give us more bang for our buck.

Core Work

Core is what we have if we were to cut off our legs and arms and head. It includes the glutes, hips, shoulders, and back. There is some overlap in our exercises, but just done from a different focus. We target the core with heavy weights during our weight training day. Then we use bands and weights during a core program we do called CXWORX™. That way we weave a stronger body matrix from all angles to maximize our potential.


I teach a Les Mills program called RPM™. It is a high interval training program on a spin bike and it kicks my butt every time I teach it (and Theresa’s when she takes it). Within the class, you push to breathless many times, all while listening to amazing music. This increases cardio endurance without impact. It utilizes the same power muscles we need in running so it supplements what we do.

My cardio endurance changed dramatically when I introduced this into my training program.


Theresa and I have our own personal practice but we also try and take Yoga as often as we can. As a 200RYT (Registered Yoga Teacher,) I teach yoga weekly and teach poses geared towards athletes. A tight or shortened muscle, will not be able to move effortlessly through its natural range of motion and can begin to pull on joints and lead to improper body mechanics placing undue strain on knees, ankles, hips etc. resulting in many common running injuries.

We both have very busy lifestyles, and as extensive as it seems, it actually doesn’t take up much time.

To accomplish all of the above cross training takes approximately eight hours a week. To some it is a lot, but to others, not that much. In the course of a perfect week, we get it all in. Those eight hours equal 5% of your total time in a week. To be fair, my job is a fitness instructor, so my job is three of those eight hours. Broken down it is three to three and a half hours of Strength, an hour of cardio and three and a half to four hours of Flexibility.

Benefits of Cross Training 

One of the greatest benefits of cross training is an increase in muscle mass. Increased muscle means a smaller and more compact frame, higher metabolism, and more resistance to injury. Of course, the
added aesthetic benefits and confidence is a bonus. No, I don’t need help with that box, bag, piece of furniture, etc. I can move it just fine. It is empowering to know that you can do so many more things because you are stronger and fitter.

Since the GBC Duo has started cross training together, Theresa has lost significant pounds, body fat, and a couple dress sizes. I believe it is a result of gluten free clean eating and working her butt off in cross training. She has also PRed a number of races..

Since I started a few years ago, I have significantly lowered my race times in my marathon as well as
other race distances. I have remained relatively injury free leading up to my 7th marathon in 4 ½ years. My plantar fasciitis disappeared and my old nagging knee injury has not returned. What we do may not be the right combination for anyone else, but it works for us; FOR NOW. Goals change and with them, so will cross training. You need to be proactive and adjust your focus based on your goals.

Love, Cindy. 
14 comments on "Why Cross Train"
  1. Love this! I've always been a firm believer in cross training. If all you do is run, you're setting yourself up for injury. Great piece!

    1. Thanks so much!! It is by far not fool proof, and always a learning experience <3

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  3. As a runner, it's not always easy to get cross training in but I have been trying!

    1. That's awesome that you are trying to incorporate it in your routine! We, in general run less a week than many of our counterparts. If running is your priority, schedule those and then schedule your cross training around that if you can. Balance is the key to staying healthy!

  4. so true - cross training is SO important for runners!

    1. We think so! I think it has made a huge difference in our all around athletic performance.

  5. I started using spin consistently to cross train a year ago and really enjoyed it. I think it’s ideal cross training for runners.

  6. Since I am getting fatter and fatter, I have to workout every day, I always do thie after dinner, I like running. Deborah @ getexercisebike.com

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  8. Thanks for sharing the information. Loved it

    Shawn @Spin Bike

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